Orlando can be a dangerous team when players move the ball energetically and take advantage of their All-NBA center by playing inside-out. But the Magic typically struggle when the ball movement wanes; the team has perhaps just one perimeter player who can create his own shot consistently, which leaves the team without a reliable Plan B.
"Democracy and capitalism is good for America," Magic guard J.J. Redick said. "Socialism is good for the Orlando Magic." Power forward Ryan Anderson scored a game-high 17 points and also grabbed eight rebounds. Dwight Howard scored 16 points and collected a game-high 13 rebounds.
But the game also served as a microcosm of their entire season. The Magic spread the wealth -- or in this case, the basketball -- well for the first, second and fourth quarters and shot 52.5 percent overall in those periods. In the third quarter, when the ball movement waned, the Magic shot just 30.0 percent.
"Tonight we played the way we want to play," Anderson said. "We just had a lot of energy and moved the ball." And there were other positive signs.
Small forward Hedo Turkoglu, a notoriously up-and-down player, played with some passion, especially after some of his teammates yelled at him for allowing a drive to the hoop. Turkoglu finished with 15 points, six rebounds and seven assists.
Point guard Jameer Nelson contributed 10 points, three rebounds and seven assists.
Orlando now has won its last two games after tough losses to Miami and Chicago.
Cleveland lost for the fifth time in its last six games.
Indeed, it would be a mistake to place too much stock in Magic's victory.
The Cavaliers entered the night ranked 24th in the league in points allowed per possession and 25th in field-goal percentage defense.
In other words, the Magic should have encountered little trouble scoring Friday.
"Offensively, I thought we tried to move the ball," coach Stan Van Gundy said.
The Magic built a lead in the first half.
Already ahead 49-38 late in the second quarter, Jason Richardson made three consecutive baskets. He hit a 3, stole the ball off a bad pass by Anthony Parker and laid the ball in. He finished off the run with an acrobatic layup off a steal by Glen Davis and a pass by Nelson.
The spurt put the Magic ahead 53-38.
"It's not the stock market," Cavs coach Byron Scott said. "You can't have the lulls we had. When we started off, we didn't play hard."
It seemed like Orlando was going to blow out Cleveland after a dunk by Howard put the Magic ahead 66-46 with 7:40 left in the third quarter.
That's when the Magic's ball movement and energy started to deteriorate.
Cleveland went on a 15-2 run to close the gap to 68-61.
The Cavs couldn't take full advantage.
Antawn Jamison missed a pair of foul shots, and on Orlando's next trip down the floor, Anderson grabbed an offensive rebound, was fouled by Manny Harris and then made two free throws to extend the lead to 70-61.
On the ensuing Magic possession, Davis hit a 12-foot fadeaway jumper to put the Magic up 72-61. Orlando (31-18) had no trouble with Cleveland (17-28) from that point on.
The ball movement reappeared. And so did the Magic's cushion.
"That's what we did in the beginning," Turkoglu said. "That's what helped us to get going and get the lead."
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